The vision to create a grand, luxury-boutique hotel to nurture Carmel, Ind.’s vibrant performing arts and American music scene, was first glimpsed 25 years ago through the long lens of official planning. The goal was to help anchor the community’s future as an important arts and cultural destination.
No detail to luxury or ties with the rich musical tradition went unfulfilled in the planning of Hotel Carmichael’s 114 guest rooms, eight suites, meeting rooms named and decorated for legendary artists such as Cole Porter and Paul Dresser.
What no amount of planning could have foreseen was the pandemic. But Hotel Carmichael opened anyway. Three months delayed, the doors to the new hotel were thrown open on Aug. 27, 2020.
“We opened in August 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, and everyone said we were crazy,” says Food and Beverage Manager Caralyn Wogan. “And we became wildly successful!”
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Wogan describes the first year of business at Hotel Carmichael and why what she’s seeing gives her reason to smile.
BB: Let’s begin with the vision for Hotel Carmichael.
CW: The owners have been planning the Hotel Carmichael for over 20 years. It was planned to fit into the exciting development of downtown Carmel, which has transformed the area into the Arts and Design District. The hotel is next-door to our state-of-the-art performing arts venue The Palladium, and is situated in the hub of an area that was re-created through a public-private partnership to create a walkable, pedestrian-friendly downtown anchored by arts and facilities. Hotel Carmichael is a major piece of the plan to offer a luxurious boutique experience that incorporates the music and culture of Carmel, Ind. into the experience.
BB: Hotel Carmichael’s lobby is alight with chandeliers over a stunning black and white tile floors. Where does it draw its inspiration?
CW: The design is inspired by 18th century architect Robert Adams. The hotel’s design serves as a transition from the Palladium across the Monon Trail to the west and the rest of the adjacent City Center development.
The experience when a guest walks through our main entrance or into our Cole Porter Ballroom or Paul Dresser board room—named for great Indiana musicians we pay homage to—a person feels the richness of the architectural detail, and the deep gold and blue colors, but also, the music itself is a very important part of the picture. A guest will hear music and be in touch with it throughout the hotel. In the bar area, for example, we have a Steinway piano that plays itself. And we have live music Wednesday through Saturday.
BB: Hotel Carmichael had another reason to lift a glass in celebration, despite the pandemic. Please explain.
CW: Everyone said we were crazy to open in the middle of a pandemic. And we knew we’d have to pivot. But, when we did open our doors, we found that everybody was ready to experience life again.
We did outdoor seating. At our restaurant Vivante French Eatery, we offered seating outdoors in heated igloos to groups of six or fewer. We even offered blankets.
We were sold out every evening! It was a wonderful experience for people to have a meal outside of their home. Everything was heated there were times, with the snow coming down, that it seemed magical.
We learned there were people who wanted to get out of their own homes, so they’d book in, stay in their rooms and get in-room dining.
BB: Please tell me about your cabaret venue, Feinstein’s.
CW: Feinstein’s is like nothing else in our area. There’s no cabaret bar anywhere near us. Michael Feinstein is a great artist and he has a giant presence here in Carmel.
BB: And how does Vivante French Eatery fill the bill?
CW: This is our main, three-meal restaurant. Like the hotel, it’s beautiful, with deep blues, crisp whites and gold accents. Our in-room dining is executed out of there as well.
Although we’re French, we’re doing different influences, the current menu we focus on the south of France, which is influenced by Spain and Italy. We are a unique. Menu isn’t super huge. We want to make sure it’s made from scratch. And a very curated menu to put a beautiful dish in front of you. About that experience once again, what are you tasting and what flavors are coming out versus a rushed, quick meal.
BB: What makes you optimistic?
CW: Since the pandemic I sense there is a new appreciation for this world and of hospitality. Everybody’s enjoying it. People are staying longer, cell phone use is down, and everyone is so polite.
In the pandemic, we learned it was a struggle and it was hard, but we got through it. Now it seems people are ready to celebrate and enjoy themselves. — Hotel Carmichael uses Boxerbrand’s Shimmer line in its table presentation. Thank you!